by Written by Petros Mavros
However not all celebrity Chefs are so damming with Jamie Oliver last month telling us he goes vegetarian three times a week and is currently compiling a vegetarian cook book.
If being honest most people tend to think of vegans and vegetarians as contemporary beings, up there with the lactose intolerant and gluten free brigade, but history shows many famous people also eschewed meat going back to Leonardo da Vinci, Aristotle, the Albert’s Einstein and Schweitzer, also Lord Byron and Lou Reed, plus Boy George, Brian May also Charlotte Bronte and Leo Tolstoy. In the UK it is estimated that vegetarians now make up 12/% of the population with vegans accounting for 1.05% of the population as they continue to avoid eating meat, fish, milk, cheese eggs and honey, this is more than triple the 150.000 who claimed to be vegan in 2006 making it one of the fastest growing life styles in the UK.
Tavern owner Petros Mavros at the ripe old age of 43 is a man who has had his once negative thoughts regarding vegans and vegetarians altered, a change which up until recently would probably have rung the death knell for any tavern as he now offers diners the option of both vegan and vegetarian mezze dishes on a daily basis as part of his menu, and this Pafos based mezze revolution was spearheaded by his then eighteen year old Daughter Eleni.
‘ Eleni as vegan taught and is still teaching me a great deal’, she introduced me to her diets, she challenged me to create new and exciting dishes using only certain ingredients, we argued a little bit, but, in the end I knew she was right as I for some time now have had on average one in five of my customers rejecting meat and requesting more vegetarian dishes, and before you ask, the answer is No, there is not a nut cutlet nor a sliver of the dreaded tofu to be found here in my kitchen.
What is offered are a range of dishes which keep very much to the philosophy of the tavern, and that is to offer customers fresh locally sourced ingredients from local growers who Petros trusts haven’t drowned their fruits and vegetables in chemicals, who offer free range eggs, locally made halloumi, and honey, and to bring all these together to create old Cypriot/Greek recipes which are then cleverly transformed via original combinations of ingredients and seasonings.
‘To be honest vegetarianism is nothing new or radical to Cypriots, not so many years ago Cypriots ate meat once or maximum twice a week, eighty years ago a meat dish was seen only at Christmas and that was pork then at Easter it was lamb. My grandmother who is now 93 remembers cooking meat every Sunday and the only reason for that was her husband as a knife maker who repaired and sharpened the butcher’s knives at the Municipal market in Pafos, then the butchers would pay him half in cash and half in meat. This was most welcome as my grandparents were able to feed their nine children this way. We haven’t really invented anything new when it comes to offering our customers dishes, what I have done is to go back and sort of dig into what the pots and pans of our ancestors held for the family. These days families eating pulses, vegetables, cereals and fruit has now become the exception when the rule used to be these foodstuffs would be on every lunch or dinner table. With my daughter becoming vegan I had to take a long and serious look at this new lifestyle choice, and understand it properly, so this trip I am taking in my kitchen is for me a life lesson and it is certainly leading me as the chef at Lengo Tavern to new paths which are happily also proving exciting and stimulating for my customers.
I would note the number of people who would opt for the fritters stuffed with wild herbs and spinach, or our no meat meat balls, and started asking diners more about their choices and it became clear that although not everyone is a strict vegan or vegetarian, either for health or moral reasons many of my customers were not only willing to try out non meat dishes but, many now boast they are becoming more and more vegetarian and as we do not treat vegetables as a secondary ingredient, we believe there is a latent creative potential in vegetarian cooking and we need to embrace that.
"My daughter is of the age group which will hopefully be making more changes in the future, she and her contemporaries will travel, learn about other cultures and diets etc., she will continue to send me daily e mails about hormones in meat, about how Venus Williams the tennis player controls her auto immune disease only through being a vegetarian, she keeps me posted on restaurants that are also changing their menus to adapt to this growing demand with the latest London eatery being the classical French restaurant Gauthier Soho which now offers a permanent vegan/vegetarian tasting menu in response to customer demand. I also firmly believe that if you are serious about being in the hospitality business then the most hospitable thing you can do is to always be able to offer customers choices, so they can have exactly what they want and always without them feeling they are putting you out or making a making a special request, and yes it’s now a common sight for a table to order a mix of both meat/fish/or a vegetarian/vegan mezze and I enjoy watching as the uninitiated taste test my latest home grown veggie twist.
Stop- Press. Gordon Ramsay has after many years of mocking, now started to ‘embrace’ both vegetarians and vegans, a video recently produced by Channel 4 shows him making some pretty delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes.
This article has been written by Nan Mackenzie and it was first published in the Cyprus Mail on Sunday the 12th of June 2016.